Monday, January 4, 2016

A Parent's Cheat Sheet to Cleaning Anything Out of Everything

I don't consider myself a true expert on many things, but with 6 kids in the house I figured if I'm ever going to be an expert on anything, stain removal is it.

Here are the messes my kids have made where I've been totally at a loss for how to clean it up, clean it off, or remove it  and what finally worked.

(Now, I cannot guarantee that your kids aren't more creative than mine and will find messes to make that mine haven't discovered yet... but I doubt it.)

With 6 kids making 14 years’ worth of messes, I know how to clean virtually anything out of everything. Easy tips for removing ink, marker, pencil, crayon, pee, vomit, and more, plus my secret weapon: the world’s best stain remover, and it’s right in your grocery store. #cleaningtips #parenting

This post contains affiliate links  if you buy something through these links, it costs the same to you but I receive a commission which I will use to buy a lavish vacation home in Costa Rica. Full disclosure.

Pencil on Walls or Painted Furniture  It sounds like you should just be able to erase it, but if you've ever tried that you know it ends up looking worse than before. You can use a Magic Eraser to remove drawing from walls (and pretty much everything from everywhere,) but it's gentler on paint to spray a paper towel with alcohol and wipe it off. You have to follow each pencil line and really scrub vigorously, but it works. The surface looks a little discolored if you leave the alcohol residue on it, so rinse with a damp paper towel afterward and dry.

Ink on Fabric   Put the inked area on a folded paper towel, spritz with hairspray and rub it in with an old toothbrush, then dab with another paper towel until it doesn't get any lighter. Scrub with Fels-Naptha soap (my all-time favorite stain remover) and rinse with cold water. I've done this with both black printer ink on white curtains and colored pen ink on a white shirt (why we even bother to have white anything in a house with 5 kids is beyond me) and it's worked great both times, even when straight-up bleach did nothing to reduce the stain.

Marker/Pen on Microfiber — Almost anything up to and including Sharpie marker comes right out of our microfiber sofa with rubbing alcohol and a paper towel. However, I have a love-hate relationship with microfiber. It's easy to clean, but it stains easily (even water stains it!) so no matter what, our cushions end up looking pretty gross after a few months. We zip the cushion covers off, wash and dry in the machine, and they look great. Ours haven't shrunk at all, but proceed with caution if you want to try it (i.e: no suing me for a new couch.)

Melted Candle Wax in the Carpet — Boil yourself a small pot of water and calm down. You can fix this. A little at a time, pour the boiling water on the wax to liquefy it and sop it up with paper towels. Repeat. Over and over. Then banish all candles from the house until your youngest child turns 18. 

Crayon on Walls, Hardwood, and TileWD-40 is my best friend. Phillip keeps a can in his shop for something, but I probably use it way more than he does. If my kids draw on the walls or floors with crayon, I can wipe it right off with WD-40. I've also used it to remove artwork from a plastic toy and it worked great.

A Parent's Cheat Sheet to Cleaning Anything Off of Everything -- Tough stains? Trust me, I've got 5 kids. It's happened here more than once and I know how to make it look like it never happened.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}Pencil and Pen on Computer Monitors — I just about died the first time I walked in to see scribbles all over the computer monitor, thinking I'd have to trash the whole thing and sell my child on eBay (partly for punishment, partly to fund the purchase of a new monitor.) But it's super-easy to clean off with a paper towel and rubbing alcohol so I didn't need to worry.

Pee on Mattresses
 — Obviously this is one place where the best offense is a good defense, in the form of a waterproof mattress protector. But stuff happens and sometimes kids pee on the mattress. I've tried different ways to clean it out, but my favorite is this tutorial from Yellow Bliss Road. It calls for vinegar and baking soda.

Vomit on Car Upholstery or Carpet — I much prefer that my kids throw up on something I can pick up and put in the laundry, but they don't always listen to me. So when that happens, I sprinkle it with baking soda to absorb odor, vacuum, and use a bristle brush to scrub it with a solution of warm water, vinegar, and dish soap. And then duct tape a big bowl to their chest so it doesn't happen again.

...When All Else Fails — try Fels-Naptha. It's some kind of voodoo magic laundry soap, no kidding. Once my preschooler spilled an entire pitcher of red Crystal Light on a rug in our kitchen. I figured it was ruined but one bar of Fels-Naptha and some repeated scrubbing/rinsing in the bathtub later, I couldn't even see where the stain had been. That stuff is like fairy dust in bar form. There's nothing it can't take care of. I regularly use it both to make my own laundry soap and to pretreat even set-in stains before a load goes in the washer.

What about you? What are your most brilliant cleaning hacks for catastrophic messes?

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Katy said...

You know, if only our kids would listen and throw up on only the stuff you can throw in the washing machine. Seriously.

I love original Dawn soap (the blue kind). It cleans grease out of clothes like nobody's business and is great mixed with vinegar to get the soap scum/dirt off the tub.

Kelly said...

I love vinegar and baking soda. When mixed, it creates a paste and you let it sit on the tub or floor or sink and then scrub, like magic stains disappear!

Unknown said...

Carbona ink remover is a lot simpler for ink in clothing. Squirt on and wash. Also Goo gone for marshmallows, gum, (even 3 year old on hand-me-downs gum!) starbursts melted in the dryer. My one failure was tar out of white baseball pants, of course i was working at the sink in a hotel room!

Unknown said...

Loving this post, Jenny! Thank you for sharing, especially the vomit cleaning part. I've had my fair share of those in the house (and in the car), but I'm definitely trying your technique (hopefully not in the near future). I would have to agree with Katy. Dawn, baking soda, and vinegar is the ultimate trifecta. I've cleaned sinks, counters, and tubs with that concoction and it works wonders.

Hope you had a great new year, Jenny!

Jenny Evans said...

I'll have to remember that one. I hate cleaning my bathtub.

Jenny Evans said...

Goo Gone is a must-have for parents, absolutely.

Also, why are baseball pants white? I have wondered that FOREVER.

Erin said...

Thanks Jenny - Totally saving this for reference! I've found myself in plenty of "what the heck do I do now" situations! I tried alcohol to remove finger paint off the wall but it was too large of a masterpiece and ended up easier to just touch up the paint.

Jenny Evans said...

Sometimes that's just the only solution. We've repainted walls too after they developed a permanent gray line at kid height all along the perimeter of the room!

Audrey Martin said...

These are life-saving cleaning tips! Since I have children I deal with so many horrible stains, that I very often just throw away the damaged clothes or things. I threw away so many shirts with ink stains. Now I know that there is a way to clean them! This is so wonderful! All of these cleaning tips are wonderful and I will use them probably sooner than I think I will! Thanks for sharing!

Denver Maid Service said...

I'll definitely have to bookmark this list for later - just in case, of course ;)

I'm still looking for the magic solution to removing bath tub crayons from tile, though (and I'm still annoyed that they don't just come off easily when that's the whole point of BATH TUB CRAYONS. What the heck!)

Jenny Evans said...

We had the same experience with some gel markers that were for coloring on windows. The kids did our sliding doors from top to bottom and it took me about a half an hour to clean it off afterward!

Anonymous said...

Wax in carpet: cover with newspaper and a washcloth. Iron the washcloth and the wax will melt and come up onto the newspaper.

Gum in hair/crayon on the wall: De-Solv-It. LOVE that stuff!!!

Baby poop : Biz. Put 1/2 cup of it in a bucket. Fill with hot water and swish around until dissolved. Add poopy clothing/blankets/etc. Let sit until the stains are gone. Even a few days. It won't take the color out of the fabric like OxiClean does.

Vomit out of the car: when we got pregnant with our first my mother in law bought us a carpet cleaner for a baby shower present. "Here. You're gonna need this!" Seven kids later it's gotten the most use of any shower gift ever!